March 20, 2014
There is an extensive body of research concerning the second language (L2) acquisition of tense-aspect morphology in relation to an inherent aspectual property of verb predicates (Andersen and Shirai 1994, 1996; Shirai 2009). Specifically, it has been well documented that in an emergent use of tense-aspect morphology, L2 learners tend to use each tense-aspect form according to the inherent semantic aspectual property of verbs (Andersen and Shirai 1994, 1996). Although this phenomenon has been extensively attested in studies examining L2 learners' use of the simple past tense form, the progressive marker, and the present tense form (Andersen and Shirai 1994, 1996; Shirai 2004, 2009), relatively few studies have investigated the use of the English present perfect form in relation to the inherent semantic aspectual property of verbs. This is unfortunate in view of the unique aspectual characteristic the form exhibits (Leech 1970; McCord 1978; Smith 1991). In order to address this issue, the present study examines the L2 use of the present perfect form in relation to the inherent semantic aspectual property of verbs. A cloze test was administered to 29 Japanese learners of English. The results showed that learners associated the present perfect form with particular semantic aspectual properties of verbs, suggesting that L2 use of the present perfect form is constrained by such aspects. This study proposes multiple factors to account for this finding: perceptual saliency (Slobin 1985), cognitive processing principles, (Andersen 1993; Bybee 1985) and learners' prototype formation in the early use of tense-aspect morphology (Shirai and Andersen 1995).